Perfect for any gathering, this macaroni salad has all the great flavor of a jalapeño popper… jalapeños, cheddar cheese, bacon, and creamy dressing!
This is one macaroni salad that is FAR from boring… creamy and slightly spicy, like your favorite jalapeño popper appetizer! Bring this to your next barbecue, and prepare to have everyone asking for the recipe!
You guys. I apologize for posting TWO cookout side dishes this week… usually I try to plan things out in my calendar to not do an entire week of very similar recipes… but this time, yep, it just didn’t happen. At least if the weather warms up soon (here’s hoping!), you’ll be ready for the upcoming barbecues and get togethers!
One of my favorite things to have at a cookout… okay sidebar here. What do you call them? Cookout? Barbecue? Get together? Backyard party? I never know what to call them here in posts! Around here, at least in my family, we call them cookouts, but I hate to always call them that and have someone be like “what is that?!“. Oh well, I’ll call them cookouts and you’ll just play along, okay? Alright… so, my favorite thing to have at a cookout is the macaroni salad. It’s base is pasta, like it’s cousin, the pasta salad (pssst, check out this Mediterranean version!), but instead of an oil based dressing, it’s coated in a smooth, silky, creamy dressing.
Usually that creamy dressing is on the sweet side (which I LOVE), but for this recipe, I wanted to veer away from the sweets, and head over into the spicy territory. Inspiration for this creation came when I was scrolling through my local grocery store’s website, looking at the deli options, and wishing they had more options for macaroni salad flavors. All of a sudden, I had a lightbulb moment and immediately jotted down this idea for a jalapeño popper version!!
After some tweaking, I think this recipe is pretty great! It does have some heat, so if you hate spicy things, then unfortunately, this isn’t the macaroni salad for you. You can adjust the heat level by using jarred mild jalapeños (or even green chiles – I won’t tell!), or go bold and use fresh jalapeños…. totally up to you!
The dressing is cool and creamy, with no sweetness, just a little kick of garlic powder and some salt and pepper. It’s a three part dressing with mayo, sour cream, and a bit of cream cheese (for that classic jalapeño popper flavor). Like most cold salads, the longer it sits, the better it gets, so feel free to make this up a day ahead of time. Just save a bit of the dressing and toss it together before serving to freshen it up a bit.
The next time you’re planning a cookout, don’t forget to add this unique Jalapeño Popper Macaroni Salad to your menu… you won’t be sorry!
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Jalapeno Popper Macaroni Salad
Perfect for any gathering, this macaroni salad has all the great flavor of a jalapeño popper... jalapeños, cheddar cheese, bacon, and creamy dressing!
- 1 lb dried elbow macaroni pasta
- 1 cup canned jalapeños, chopped I prefer the mild version (can substitute with fresh chopped jalapeños as well)
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, cubed small (or shredded) (monterey jack or Colby jack are good as well)
- 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I like to use the canola oil mayo for a less calorie dressing)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice fresh is best
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- generous pinch of black pepper
- fresh parsley, minced for garnish (optional)
Bring large pot of water to a boil, add generous pinch of salt and boil pasta per package directions. Drain, and rinse pasta with cold water until cooled.
To a small mixing bowl, add mayo, sour cream, cream cheese, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder and black pepper and whisk until smooth and creamy.
To a large mixing or serving bowl, add cooked and cooled pasta, jalapeños, cheese, and most of the bacon. Pour dressing over pasta and toss to combine.
Sprinkle with remaining bacon, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to fully combine.
If desired, add a bit of melted butter to some panko breadcrumbs and cook in a dry skillet over LOW heat until fragrant and toasty. Before serving pasta salad, sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over the top.